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Know Your Customer, Grow Your Business

A Conference Focus Group Recap

Jim Sanford of American Eagle Imagewear shares the strategy behind his company's success

Jim Sanford of American Eagle Imagewear led a discussion exploring ways to build systems to gain and serve more profitable client and supplier relationships. Following is Jim’s guide to growing his business.

The first step is to conduct a detailed and comprehensive review of your company’s current position, goals and objectives. Equally important is to critically analyze what your company does best in terms of products and services. Explore how your company is different and distinct from the competition (Avoid vague generalizations like “we provide outstanding customer service.”

Next, analyze your current client list to see who best fits your company. Use time expenditures, capital investment, profit and long term repeat sale potential as your base criteria. Involve each level of your staff in every step of evaluation and goal setting. From your detailed analysis you can develop.

  • Measurable and achievable targets for one, two and three years in the future
  • Three items from your one-year plan with a time line and delegation of responsibilities to accomplish goals within a 4 to 6 month period
  • 10 potential clients that provide the same fit as your most profitable account and a detailed plan to add them to your portfolio.

With a focused and detailed plan and a continuous effort, you will carve out your piece of the apparel pie, but to get there you must also develop the best possible supply chain. There are plenty of customers to go around: quality suppliers, not so much. Conduct the same analysis you did with your clients to ensure you have a mutually beneficial relationship and commitment from your suppliers. Suppliers who share your common goal for quality and service and support your end client are worth their weight in gold.

Don’t be afraid to take on new and challenging skills, especially regarding technology and the internet. Outsource those tasks or skill that are more effectively and efficiently achieved by another firm; you can always take them in-house at a later time. By utilizing support services like Preferred Suppliers CSI and Fortune Marketing, you can provide data to improve your service and ultimately, the revenue of your company.

Improve teamwork and fuel growth by using advanced management skills and reward systems. Empower your staff with more than a position and fixed salary. Find ways, big and small, that allow them to invest in the long term success of the company by giving them a piece of the action, individually or in a pool. Nothing talks like recognition in front of your peers and monetary rewards. This will result in expansion of your client base, improved productivity and profitability as well as improved procedures and processes within your company.

Remember what is important

It’s important to remember that this is work. It is what we do so we have the time and resources to play and spend time with our families. Here’s something to contemplate: if you won the Lottery would you go back to work full time?
We can find accomplishment, satisfaction and financial reward at work but at the end of the day it is the example and legacy you leave behind in the world. My motto is “The most important thing at the end of the day is how good a husband and how good a father I am.”

James C. Sanford
COO, American Eagle Imagewear

Photo: copyright MCG photography

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